The Terror Genie (I): Muslims as the New Infidels of England

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Muslims stand in the prayer hall during Friday prayers in Baitul Futuh Mosque in south London, on 18 February 2011, as they attend a Unite Against Extremism call at Western Europe's largest mosque. (Photo: AFP - Carl Court)

By: Tariq Mehmood

Published Saturday, March 10, 2012

Ever since Britain released the terror genie, it has hardly gone back into the bottle. In this series, activist and novelist Tariq Mehmood recounts tragic tales and alarming transformations in the wake of Britain’s perpetual “war on terror”.

Part I: Muslims as the Infidels of England

In the past, crude racism of the street in Britain ensured that whether you were Pakistani, African, Arab, or Indian, all people of color were Pakis, wogs, and niggers. If we complained about racism, it was not unusual to be told, “go back to where you come from.” With one fell swoop, the genie has transformed the old racism, so people who look like me are all Muslims now. It doesn't matter if you are Hindu, Christian, or Sikh. If you look like a Muslim, you are a Muslim, a potential walking bomb.

On my way back from the UK to Lebanon last month, I picked up two popular newspapers, The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Both papers lead with stories about how the dreadful European Court of Human rights had stopped Britain from throwing Abu Qatada, a cleric who is deemed to be a threat to national security, out of the country. In the past, the genie has described Abu Qatada as Osama bin Laden's “right hand man in Europe.” With his long terrorist beard and a prayer cap on his head, what else could he be?

About ten years ago, I watched a mullah being interviewed on British television. The interviewer asked him, “if you don't like this country, why don't you leave?”

He replied, “It’s like living in a toilet surrounded by landmines.” While I don't agree much with Abu Qatada, I certainly understood the depth of his feelings.

In April 2009 I was at home in Manchester when I saw breaking news on the television. The genie had once again saved Britain from Muslims. This time, from a really, really “big terror plot.” Armed anti-terror police raided houses across the northwest of the country and made a number of arrests. Twelve Pakistanis were arrested. One turned out to be a minor and he was released. Another was a British citizen and he was released a few weeks later. The remaining ten were locked in a high security prison.

I had seen the genie many times before this. On 19 April 2004, 400 police officers raided houses where Muslims were living and arrested some North Africans and Kurds. The genie told the British people that the police had stopped the terrorist from blowing up a Manchester United game. What most people didn't hear about was that actually these Muslims just happened to be Manchester United fans and after the genie was put back in the bottle and the media frenzy had died down, they were given some complimentary tickets to go see a United game.

The genie popped up again in the north of England when a humanitarian aid convoy planned to travel from Manchester to Gaza. When the convoy was travelling overland, it was stopped on the motorway by anti-terrorist police officers and the drivers were arrested. What people saw and heard in blaring headlines was the terror raids and pictures of bearded men. Most people didn’t hear about how the police paid the price of getting the drivers and their vehicles to Tunis to join up with the convoy.

When I heard about the new raids of 2009, especially when it became clear that those arrested were Pakistani students, who had come here from Pakistan to study, it was obvious to me that the terror genie had targeted a group of young men who did not have any roots in this country. They would therefore have no one to ask questions on their behalf or to defend them.

I felt particularly indignant when the then Prime Minister Gordan Brown said of these students, on 9 April 2009, the day after their arrests:

“We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot. We have been following it for some time. There were a number of people who are suspected of it who have been arrested. That police operation was successful. We know that there are links between terrorists in Britain and terrorists in Pakistan. That is an important issue for us to follow through on. That is why I will be speaking with [Pakistani] President Zardari about what Pakistan can do to help us in the future. I think we must not forget that the police have been successful in carrying out their arrests and, of course, what happens in the next few days is a matter for the police inquiries. But we had to act pre-emptively to ensure the safety of the public and the safety of the public is the paramount and utmost concern in all that we do.”

Unlike the arrest of the students, which was plastered across the media, the fact that two weeks into their imprisonment, the police declared them to be innocent, was hardly mentioned. Not that it would have mattered because this declaration of innocence did not mean the students were free. They were still kept in prison, this time on an immigration technicality. They were denied contact with their families. They did not know what they had done. But what they did learn very quickly, from an immigration judge, was that they could either spend the next 18 months or so in prison, or go back to Pakistan tomorrow..

Two systems of justice now work in Britain. One where there is a presumption of innocence, but if you happen to be a Muslim, a second kafkaesque one comes into effect under the spell of the genie. You can be locked away for years without charge, without being told what evidence there is against you. You could be put under house arrest, tagged electronically, and denied any contact with the outside world. Your lawyers are supposed to defend the person who has been charged without knowing what the case against their client is. If there is any evidence, it is shown to the trial judge behind closed doors, with the defense lawyers excluded on the grounds that the evidence is secret.

Following the announcement of innocence, I went to see a friend who had in the past campaigned concerning the issues of human rights in Britain, to see if we could work together and defend these students. My friend was aware of what had happened and said to me, “Listen yaar, I can make a financial donation to the campaign, but these times are bad and I don't want any hassle from the police.”

Another friend who was instrumental in helping me make contact with families of the students in Pakistan was advised by his wife to stay away from this issue when she said to him, “Look there are writers and lawyers who are already exposed. You are nobody. Why do you want to expose yourself on this issue?”

What I did not realize at the time was how the atmosphere of fear and intimidation had moved into even the left and liberal groups in this country. Some withdrew from the campaign to defend the students, worried about the negative fallout for themselves as a result of their potential of association with terrorism.

Notwithstanding the initial setbacks, a campaign to defend the students was organized. At the first meeting, held on Saturday 9 May 2009, three family members of the students spoke on the phone from northwest of Pakistan. Tahir Rahman, brother of on of the imprisoned students Tariq Rahman, said, “he was sent to the UK to study, to make a better life for his family and himself. His young wife died during the birth of their first child. His father is dead. His paralysed mother cannot come to terms with her son’s imprisonment. She has not spoken to her son since his arrest.”

Raza Ullah Khan, brother of imprisoned suspect Mohammad Ramzan, speaking from Abbotabad, Pakistan said, “His [Mohammad’s] mother dreamed he would come back educated from the UK. She is ill now, waiting for him. He should be released now so that he can come back to Pakistan to see his mother. She asks, ‘When will he phone?’ I want to appeal to the British Government – you know he has not done anything so release my brother. And to the Pakistani government – for God’s sake, don’t lie. You are doing nothing to help us.”

And Nasrallah Jaan Khattak, father of Abid Nasir, spoke from Peshawar, Pakistan. “I fear for my son,” he said. “I appeal to the government to give him the chance to finish his education. I have not been able to speak to my son since the arrest and we are very worried about him and his health. We sent our son to study not to be oppressed.”

I was present at the meeting and asked, “What sort of a society locks people up without charge, without evidence, threatens to throw them out of the country on the whims of politicians and sexed up intelligence reports. What has happened to this country where the police are threatening more such raids? We are all but in a police state. The gloves are nearly off and it won’t simply be Muslims who will feel the heat.”


Ill have to repeat the question that the TV interviewer asked the Cleric.

If you dont like it, why dont you leave?

Its quite simple. Im British, I love being so, I love the freedoms this affords me. I dont like beheadings, or cutting off hands, I dont like keeping women locked away and banned from driving or educating themselves, and I dont like religion in general.

I live in Britain, so Im allowed to say so. Conversely if I did like those things, and disliked prosperity, freedom of speech and creativity, national pride, inventiveness, literacy, industry and all those things, then I would move to a Muslim country.

So Id love to understand what makes someone like you keep coming back to this terrible place, that is so against your beliefs? We wont change just because you feel a bit upset that the British wont accept you. Anymore than people in Pakistan will change because they dont like an Englishman living in their country. I know for a fact that Europeans living in Muslim countries, or countries that have a different race predominating face racism in exactly the same way that you might in Britain.

So please explain to me, what makes this place so attractive to you, if you hate it so much?

Not only that,, but you are critiscising the British justice system. Do you really think that the one in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia is any better? I think you should just relax and enjoy the good life in Britain mate, and stop getting so wound up about such things.

Or do you not have a job, and this is why you have so much time on your hands to get so angry about things, and write these articles. Thinking about it, is that the reason you are still here? Free house and money?

Please let me know, I really am interested.

I wouldnt live in Saudi Arabi or Pakistan, because I would be angry like you, except I would be angry about civil rights abuse, poverty, illiteracy, violence and massive corruption, instead of you being upset about the British police trying to stop the next 7/11 suicide attack.

Please try to get over it. noone hates you. Sure there have been some events here that make people a bit wary of Muslims, and its an alien culture, and most people are afraid of things that are unknown to them. But please stop making out this is some evil country. There are far worse places. Cant you just enjoy it and chill out?

Do your praying to your imaginary friend by all means, but please just chill out and cheer up. I dont think this god you believe in would want you to be so cross all the time, and he/she would want you to have a good time and be happy right?

Let me know friend, I dont hate you, Im certain we woudl get along fine if we ever were stuck together in an emergency or somwthing you know? as humans? I am interested in what you have to say though.


The 'genie' is as much a product of radical Islam as it is of Britain's fear of terrorism. Islam has one big PR problem. TV screens show hordes of screaming lunatics killing each other because somebody was insensitive in disposing an unwanted Quran. Inevitably, more rational minds see this intemperate behaviour as driven by their religion and one plus one equals two. Pakistan kills journalists and politicians. Saudi Arabia has appalling human rights. Yemen is a basket case. Libya cannot settle down while Salafists desecrate graves and hang on to their weapons. It is easy to go on.

If Muslims want to be treated as if they are reasonable human beings (as indeed most are), then they need to take ownership of their religion's appalling public image, and do something about it.

A typical racist rant.

NATO (Christians) are bombing Pakistan, mass-murdering Afghans (and urinate on their bodies), kidnap, torture and assassinate (by "law") all over the world, support the most gross dictators (yes, Saudi royals too), bombed Libya and so on.

If NATO states want to be treated NOT as crazy racist terrorists, they'd better STOP it. And also to stop racist propaganda which blames victims of NATO crimes.

Now anon could stop repeating this propaganda, as well, but I am NOT holding by breath :(

UK "Terror Plot": Gordon Brown points finger at Pakistan

[propaganda alert]

by Cem Ertür, 12 April 2009

British press: Widow of 7/7 bomber hunted in terror alert

[propaganda alert]

by Cem Ertür, 2 March 2012

Can the Author please clarify the readers that this mosque is an Ahmadiyya religious building, not a mainstream mosque, hence its called a Baitul... rather than Masjid, in which latter is the islamic terminology for a mosque.

Ahmadiyya are a neo-islamic sect and are not accepted by either Sunni's or Shia's as mainstream orthodox Muslim organisation.

Therefore to avoid any offence caused to Shia Muslims or Sunni Muslims, I suggest you replace the image with either Sunni or Shia (who encompass 99% Muslim representation) mosque.

Thank You

I notice the Daily Mail attacks the following groups : Muslims, people who live on benefits, migrant workers, assylum seekers, gypsies, Rumanians. The reports are highly provocative, irresponsible & dangerous journalism as they are clearly setting these groups up to be attacked.

The Muslim terror plots are used to justify the occupation of Afganistan & Iraq otherwise the public won't accept these terrible wars. They're unpopular but the government won't listen.

Michal is a great joker, sure. "innocent people of Gaza and Iraq"? That is, victims of UK mass-murder and support for Zionist mass-murder by UK.

UK has a long and sordid story of colonial plunder and murder, and was and is an active party in support of the most reactionary Islamists - most recently in Libya.

Brazilian de Menezes was murdered with impunity by UK police because they though he was a Muslim! Then the police tried to cover this cold-blooded murder of innocent, telling lies about the victims. It was also after UK had attacked Iraq and mass-murdered and tortured Iraqis under false pretext.

I'm sorry but blaming "Britain" for releasing the "terror genie" is completely wrong. These people, just like the poor, innocent people of Gaza and Iraq, are just responding to acts of aggression from islamist fundamentalists who have attacked and killed scores of Britons in Britain and abroad.

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